Defense and rebounding shined bright for Florida women’s basketball against Texas A&M Thursday night.
The Gators held the Aggies to 34% shooting and grabbed 42 rebounds during the matchup; Florida junior center Ra Shaya Kyle had a career-high 17 rebounds.
“I was really impressed tonight,” said Florida head coach Kelly Rae Finley. “She can do that every night.”
The Florida Gators (14-8, 3-6 SEC) defeated the Texas A&M Aggies (6-14, 1-9 SEC) 61-54 to complete the season sweep of the Aggies. Florida emphasized interior scoring, as they scored 40 points in the paint. Florida only made one 3-pointer in the victory.
Both teams got off to slow starts. The Gators and Aggies failed to record a basket until the 7:30 mark of the first quarter.
Florida senior forward Faith Dut scored the first basket of the game. She caught a bullet pass from senior guard KK Deans and finished for an easy layup. Sophomore Gators guard Alberte Rimdal blew past her defender and scored an easy 2-pointer, nearly three minutes later.
Florida held Texas A&M to just 2-9 shooting in the first six minutes of the game. However, the Gators shot just 2-8 during that stretch and failed to capitalize on their defensive efforts.
Kyle hit a contested jumper over an Aggie. Deans bodied her defender and banked in a contested layup to give Florida the lead on the following possession.
Freshman Aggies forward Janiah Barker went coast-to-coast and finished a euro-step layup over a Gators defender to tie the game.
Florida sophomore forward Tatyana Wyche battled on the offensive glass. She grabbed two rebounds and finished a contested layup at the end of the first quarter to give UF a 16-14 lead.
Deans put her defender in a spin cycle and nailed a step-back jumper early in the second quarter. She blew past her defender with a behind-the-back move and made a tough layup on the next play.
Texas A&M sophomore guard Tineya Hylton drilled a spot-up 3-pointer to bring the Aggies within two. Dut then hit a long mid-range jumper on the ensuing Florida possession to extend the Gators’ lead.
Hylton intercepted a Florida pass and finished an easy fast-break layup after a media timeout.
Deans forced a turnover and threw a pass to Florida senior guard Leilani Correa, who finished the layup through a foul but couldn’t convert the 3-point play.
Florida attempted its first triple of the game with three seconds remaining in the first half. Sophomore Gators guard Jeriah Warren’s 3-pointer missed, but Kyle got the rebound and drew a foul; she split her free throws.
Florida entered the break with a four-point lead despite its lack of 3-point production.
Dut started the Gators’ scoring coming out of the break as she hit a reverse layup. Kyle grabbed an offensive rebound and finished for two points on the next possession.
Hylton cruised to the basket for an easy fast-break layup after a Florida turnover. Dut hit a tough hook shot over her defender to give Florida a six-point lead.
Florida senior guard Nina Rickards drilled a step-back jump-shot in the face of her defender. She finished a contested layup through traffic to extend Florida’s lead.
The Gators were locked in defensively for the majority of the third quarter. They held the Aggies to one field goal and eight points in the quarter.
Rickards opened the fourth quarter with an emphatic chase-down block on a Texas A&M fast break.
“The margin of error is very small,” Finley said. “If she doesn’t make that play, the end of the game might be a totally different result.”
Deans found Correa cutting to the basket for a layup shortly after.
Texas A&M graduate student forward Aliyah Patty finished a tough layup through a foul to cut Florida’s lead to eight but failed to convert the three-point play.
Florida junior forward Jordyn Merritt hit Florida’s first three of the game with four minutes remaining in the third/fourth quarter to extend its lead.
Barker used a post-spin to create enough space to finish a contested layup through a foul. She was able to convert the three-point play and bring the Aggies within five. Texas A&M junior guard Kay Kay Green hit a 3-pointer in the face of a Florida defender.
Merritt stepped to the line and hit both free throws to push the Gators’ lead to six with 35 seconds remaining.
Following a quick layup by TAMU junior guard Sahara Jones, Rickards went 1-2 at the free throw line. The Queens, New York, native missed her second attempt, but she grabbed her own miss and maintained possession for the Gators.
Texas A&M freshman guard Sydney Bowles drilled a 3-point shot to bring the Aggies within three. Deans hit a pair of free throws to put the Gators back up by two possessions.
Florida was able to force a turnover, and Rimdal grabbed the loose ball to give the Gators the victory.
The Gators will next play against Ole Miss on Sunday at 4 p.m. on the road. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
Contact Austin Stirling at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @austinstirlingg.
Austin Stirling is a second-year journalism major and covering the Women's Basketball beat for The Alligator. In his free time, he enjoys playing and watching sports such as baseball, football and basketball, as well as working out and listening to music! You will typically find him being upset by the Jets every Sunday.